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Latitude: 51.4851 / 51°29'6"N
Longitude: 0.2298 / 0°13'47"E
OS Eastings: 554918
OS Northings: 178592
OS Grid: TQ549785
Mapcode National: GBR VF.2MJ
Mapcode Global: VHHNM.XXVX
Entry Name: Purfleet Play Centre and Attached Wall to S
Listing Date: 17 April 2009
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1393264
English Heritage Legacy ID: 500745
Location: Thurrock, RM19
Electoral Ward/Division: West Thurrock and South Stifford
Built-Up Area: Grays
Traditional County: Essex
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex
Church of England Parish: Mardyke
Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford
977/0/10022 CENTURION WAY
Purfleet Play Centre and attached wall
Proof house of the mid 1760s, to the designs of James Gabriel Montresor, Royal Engineer, and completed to a similar design as the main magazines. Flemish bond brown brick with Portland stone dressings; gabled slate roof. Tall single-storey building built to a square plan. South elevation, facing the Thames and the remaining magazine of the original group of five has open pediment framing semi-circular lunette to gable end. East and west return elevations each of 3 bays with tall central semi-circular arched window flanked by blind windows above sashes, all set under cambered arches of gauged brick. North elevation, abutting steep scarp, has doorway inserted into tapered and slightly projecting central bay which rises into similar open-pedimented gable. INTERIOR has suspended ceiling, but corbels remain from former gallery.
Single-storey outbuildings attached to south, of similar materials and probably built as a shifting house for changing into specialist magazine clothing: small hip-roofed central block attached at right angles to narrow range extending to west, with similar pedimented end gable to west. Tall brick wall, extending for approx. 10 m, immediately to south of this range, facing onto Centurion Way.
HISTORICAL NOTE: Proof houses were originally used for testing small quantities of gunpowder by igniting it with a hot iron on a glass, porcelain or copper plate: the (altered) interior was originally provided with a gallery. This function of testing powder took place against the background of scientific development in eighteenth century France and Britain and Britain's attempts to standardise and improve the quality of powder available to the army and navy. It also relates to a critical period in Britain's growth as a naval power in the decades after the Seven Years War. This scientific testing was to ramify greatly and have a decisive effect on the development of explosives sites and military ordnance yards in the 19th century. This building was used as a Copper Hoop Store in the C19. Associated with the magazines built by Montresor, No. 5 Powder Magazine and the Clock Tower (qqv) surviving from the powder depot at Purfleet. The only other proof house to have survived is the early nineteenth century example at the Marsh Works in Faversham, Kent. The plan and form of this building - the gallery being repeated in Sir Frederick Abel's laboratory of the 1860s at Woolwich's Royal Arsenal (grade II) - also clearly relates to its function as an eighteenth century laboratory building, one that now represents a very rare - possibly unique -example of such a structure.
(Report by Paul Pattison and Peter Guillery for RCHME, 1994, NMR, Swindon (NBR Index No. 93577); Paul Pattison and Peter Guillery, 'The Powder Magazines at Purfleet', in Georgian Group Journal, VI, 1996, pp.37-52; Wayne Cocroft, Dangerous Energy: The Archaeology of Gunpowder and Explosives Manufacture. English Heritage: 2000, pp. 46-7)
This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.
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